Sunday, August 18, 2013

Go Ninja! GO! GO! - The Grand Opening of UE Baltimore

Goddamn, folks, I apologize for the obligatory title of this post, but I literally had no choice.

(Just kidding I had lots of choices.)

Anyway, so Saturday morning I woke up at an ungodly hour. Ordinarily of course I prefer to sleep in on the weekends, but the fact was that it was big day, so I crawled out of bed, pulled on my clothes in bleary-eyed exhaustion, and readied myself for what would no doubt be a momentous occasion. I checked my phone as we climbed into the car and prepared for our long journey: 11:38 am. I should have been dead asleep for at least another two hours, but alas, when duty calls there are those of us courageous enough to answer, no matter how early the hour.

On March of 2012 I attended the opening of Urban Evolution's Manassas location, and it was, I do not exaggerate, a life changing experience. I knew that yesterday, at the opening Urban Evolution's Baltimore gym, I would get to see more lives changed and imaginations unlocked as the local population got to check out parkour for the first time. I was not disappointed. The facility was huge and impressively full (although it really supported the large numbers well) as dozens upon dozens of people learned to roll, vault, and hang for the first time.

Not Pictured: THE OTHER 3/4's OF THE GYM!
Despite the large numbers and organized chaos, I got do a lot of work while hanging out with my BF and a couple of other UE friends we don't get to see very often. As soon as we got settled in, my boyfriend was ushered over to the challenge of his fitness career: a 750 pound tire. Guys, if you've never flipped a tire before, please, please go out there, find a tire, and flip it. It's an incredible experience. If it's a 750 pound tire, however, you might want to just leave it be. Sebastian tried, and could not get it off the ground. Then he tried with me helping, and we got it about an inch into the air and couldn't make it any further. It was tragedy on an unfathomable level. That son of bitch was heavy. 
But then first one duo got it, and then another. I couldn't stand it. So I demanded that we give it another try. With Sebastian beside me, I sank my butt down all the way to the floor, got my hands underneath it, and used everything my quads had in them to lift while my back and shoulders braced the weight. Every inch was agony, but slowly we got it into the air. But lifting is only half the battle in a tire flip. Once you have it up, you have to shift your position and get fully beneath the thing and push it over. Sebastian got underneath the rubber without too much trouble, but it was agony for me, so he had to brace it while I made the shift. Once I had my position right I used everything my shoulders had and shoved the son of bitch over. It slammed with a resonance that silenced the population of the gym. And in that silence, I let out a cry known only to those who have faced the impossible odds of battle and seen triumph when they expected only death. My only regret is that I do not have videographic evidence of this event.

I do, however, have some videos of my bar work! Recently I discovered, to my utter surprise, that I can actually do a chin-up. So I got Sebastian to get a video of me working on my still extremely weak but getting better lifts. 

A friend named Charles also helped me with my circle-ups. It's important to me that I learn to do a circle-up and do it well in order to perform better at trapeze, but it requires much more control than I currently have, so Charles showed me how to do reverse circle-up in order to teach my muscles that particular control.  So now guess what I get to work on three days a week...

Yes, it says, "Trespassers will be eaten by Zombies."

But of course the best part of the UE Baltimore Grand Opening wasn't me; it was everyone else. I got so caught up people-watching I didn't even get pictures or videos of all the incredible things happening around me. I saw hand-stands and laches, amazing vault work, bar free flow, dance, martial arts, gymnastics and amazing parkour as total strangers exchanged the best of their abilities and taught each other new ways of moving. At one point I did get a video of my friend Charles doing a handstand. If you listen, you can me scream when I realized just what was actually planned...

Trust is a very important part of parkour.

I came home exhausted and sore, and today my shoulders and upper back are still complaining from all the work they did. But I had a great time, and I'm so glad I went. 

Congratulations, Baltimore, you just got yourself one hell of a gym. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Level-ups, Serenity, Separated Ribs, and the Beautiful Game

I had a Moment on Saturday morning.

We had just arrived at the field to warm up for our first game of the two day soccer tournament, and I was tired, distracted, and above all, anxious and shivering with pre-game jitters. I put on my cleats, exchanged hugs and greetings with people I hadn't seen in a year, and then I began my very first run across the warm-up field: a slow, clean, even jog. As I reached the end line, I turned to run back the way I'd come and saw my own foot prints, two dotted lines incising a perfect dew-covered field.
And I realized that every year it starts this way: a clean unbroken slate of a weekend in which anything can happen, and those first footsteps, that first run across the grass, is the beginning of the dictation of wins, losses, triumphs, and amazing plays that make the tournament what it is. At that moment, I could see the entire weekend in front of me, and I was ready to play.

Brothers (and Other Family Members) In Arms
This soccer tournament we go to has several divisions of competitive men's and women's teams (including an over 50 men's division, and let me tell you, those guys are goddamn terrifying). We, however, play in the co-ed open recreational division which is, by far, the lowest of the low. Our team includes my Mom and Dad, both over 60, my aunt, two of my cousins, and my brother, and an assortment of old friends and friends of friends and friends who have become more like family and almost everyone is over 30 and some are over 40. If we can't destroy our opponents with goals, goddamn it we can definitely destroy them in terms of average player age and percentage of players related by blood, marriage, or long term friendship.

And that's why it's ok for someone to throw a ball at us while we're posing for a picture.
But age means nothing to these people, and family means everything. We came out onto the field with set jaws and steely eyes, and we played with everything we had in us, running harder than we thought we could, making impossible passes, and even just barely saving a ball as it slid over the goal-line. (That last one was my aunt, if you're wondering. She made an impossible save and then cackled like the pirate she truly is. She is in the photo above holding the yellow jersey. Just in case you need a visual reference for a straight badass.)

War Wounds
Anyway, so for me personally it was kind of a tough tournament. Still one of my favorite weekends of the year. But tough. This is mostly on account of a hit I took in the first half of our first game. A guy on the other team and I were both running head-on for the same ball. He outweighed me by, I dunno, let's say 50lbs. That's a low estimate, but we'll go with it. Now, this is very important: I got to the ball first. Nothing else in this story really matters as much as that. I ran hard, and I totally beat him to the ball, and I kicked it out of bounds, and I saved my team from certain doom, and I was a total fucking hero. BUT THEN there was still the fact that we were running directly at each other. And I had stopped. And he had not. One of my teammates, who was standing nearby, told me he heard me gasp as I realized I was about to get hit. People on the sidelines on the other side of the field told me they heard me AFTER I got hit, and I got ALL the  wind knocked out of my lungs. I flew backwards in the air after the impact and somehow landed on my right side with my elbow beneath me. And there I stayed. Around me I could hear people saying, "Is she ok? Is she all right? Kate?" And also "YELLOW CARD! GIVE HIM A YELLOW!" I meanwhile lay on the ground wondering, "Why can't I get up? Why am I making these sounds?" Because I was, in fact, groaning loudly in pain. For a moment I thought I had broken all my ribs, but when I rolled over (or someone rolled me over) I realized I had just had the wind knocked out of me.
It took a few minutes for me to get up, but I did, and several medical professionals confirmed that I did not, in fact, have a punctured lung. Hooray! I was in some pain, but not too much, and I could run. The one problem was that I could not take in a full breath of air, so every time I tried to fill my lungs my chest hurt as if there was a rock crushing it down. It turns out that one rib is separated, which isn't too serious, but it made running more difficult for the rest of the day. That didn't stop me from playing in our second game though. And playing most of the game the next day.

You've Earned a New Skill!
If you're anything like me, when you play Skyrim (and I assume you play Skyrim) you will, on occasion, hit the back button in the middle of battle (possibly with a sliver of health left and an enemy sword swinging right for your soft, squishy head) and suddenly level up your character, gaining a new skill right there, right then, right when all hope seems to be lost and you have nothing else to give.
I did that. In the game on Sunday. I mean, there weren't any swords or anything (sadly), but someone on the other team had the ball and was running as fast as he could towards the goal, and he was much faster than me, and it was my fault that he had beat me, and if he scored I would never forgive myself. Desperate to reach him, I opened my chest and tightened my core muscles and suddenly put on a burst of speed I literally had no idea I had within me. Never, in my life, had I ever run this way before. It was a new skill, a new way of moving that allowed me to go faster and see more of the field and use less oxygen so that I could recover more quickly. I fucking leveled up and gained a new skill on my soccer tree in the middle of a goddamned game. And I caught that dude. And he didn't score. And for the rest of the game, every time he came down the line, I used the same skill and I ran him down like a dog.

When I started this blog, I decided to call it Skill Seeker for two reasons: 1. Level-up Live was already taken. (THANKS DOUCHE BAG!) 2. I really believe that you can measure skills and development and acquisition of skills in real life the same way you do in a video game. When you practice something over and over and over again you will get better. Usually you're just a little better over time, but every so often you get this "Aha moment," this realization that if you just change things a little bit you can do something you were never able to do before. And you level up.

The tournament was, as always, an amazing event. I got a cool injury, I got to see people I never get see, I got to play soccer with my family, I got to clear my head, and I learned to do something I've never been able to do before. It will be a year before I go back, sadly, I can't wait to do it all again.

(maybe without the broken rib)